Leslie Tarr Laurie: A successful public health initiative

Published: 1/5/2021 11:37:06 AM

I was delighted to see the Gazette’s story about the 25th anniversary of one of this area’s most successful public health initiatives, the Northampton Needle Exchange Program. When I was the CEO of Tapestry Health, my team and I planned and implemented this important public health program. I’m pleased it continues to provide lifesaving support to many.

While the Gazette’s article was informative, several not mentioned should be recognized and honored for their contributions in the challenging initiation of the program.

Mayor Mary Ford supported the program from its start. City Councilor Bill Dwight championed the program and understood that HIV/AIDS transmission was a death sentence then. Bill’s passion ensured unanimous City Council support. Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz courageously did what no other commonwealth police chief would do: publicly endorse the program. The then-Tapestry Board of Directors, led by attorney Mark Berson, never wavered in its support. The program will also forever be indebted to the late Tim Purington. As its first director, Tim not only launched the program but oversaw its success. As a Holyoke City Councilor, Tim was even instrumental in expanding the program into that city. In my 40 years leading Tapestry Health, we accomplished much. I’m proudest of the Needle Exchange Program.

Nothing was more crucial to the program’s success than the support of the Northampton community and the many who donated time, money and encouragement. All studies show that the Needle Exchange Program saved lives. The Northampton community supported the Needle Exchange Program because they understood that science, not politics, should prevail in matters of public health.

Leslie Tarr Laurie


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Northampton, MA 01061


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